Primatene Mist: Over-the Counter Asthma Symptom Relief

Written by Kyle Farina

Asthma is a disease which affects the lungs and makes it more difficult to breath. The lung tissue constricts and spasms and makes getting adequate oxygen more difficult, requiring the patient to breathe more frequently and feel like they are short of breath. Currently, the two types of medication which are used to treat Asthma are inhalers, which are broken down into rescue inhalers and controller inhalers. Control inhalers, such as Advair, are used daily to help delay the progression of Asthma, whereas rescue inhalers are used only when you are experiencing shortness of breath. Both rescue and control inhalers are only available by prescriptions; however, the FDA has recently considered re-approving and over-the-counter rescue inhaler option for patients.

Primatene Mist® was an over-the-counter inhaler that was available for patients to buy and use as a rescue inhaler. It was taken off the market in 2011 because it had chlorofluorocarbon. This compound was found to deplete the ozone layer and the FDA removed it from the market for this reason. Primatene Mist® contains epinephrine, which is similar to albuterol in that it works to stimulate receptors in your lungs and cause your lungs to relax and not spasm. Many patients, especially those with mild Asthma symptoms, objected to the product being removed, as they were using the inhaler successfully and it was readily available for them.

Although we live in a world of convenience now and an over-the-counter option for rescue inhalers sounds appealing, there are some downsides to re-releasing these products. One concern is that an over-the-counter product makes it seem as though Asthma is not a serious disease and is a “do-it-yourself” management job.

This is not the case whatsoever!

Asthma is a very serious disease and should be managed by a healthcare provider. The second concern is that patients who do not have Asthma will still use the medication for inappropriate reasons, such as to increase heart rate to help with workouts or potentially abuse the epinephrine to try and lose weight. This medication is not approved to be used in anyone other than an Asthma patient, and it should never be used to lose weight or to increase performance.

As a healthcare professional, it is important that we give our patients the most up-to-date information and recommendations for these new products. Primatene Mist® is going to be released on the market soon and it’s important for patients to be aware of the product and its usefulness, while also understanding its downsides. Primatene Mist® works similar to albuterol inhalers and should only be used as a rescue inhaler while experiencing shortness of breath. The medication is currently not recommended in the GINA guidelines (clinical guidelines to managing Asthma), and this medication should not replace you visiting your healthcare provider.

As always, feel free to reach out to us or stop in if you have any questions. We look forward to helping you get the best quality care!

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